The duo of Robert Galbraith and Elizabeth Virosa – collectively known as Snowbeasts – has been steadily carving out a niche in the realm of exploratory sound design, focusing on elements of industrial and ambient soundscapes in a manner not dissimilar to the likes of Mark Spybey’s Dead Voices On Air, so a collaboration between the two acts is certainly no stretch of the imagination. With the two living on opposite sides of the ocean, Snowbeasts and Dead Voices On Air draw on the mystique of the Atlantic for this audiovisual sensory experience, making for an ultimately meditative and occasionally ponderous listen.
Each of the six tracks on this record moves through sonic constructions that wax and wane like the waves upon the artists’ shorelines, the tides vacillating between serenity and ferocity with great frequency and unpredictability. For example, on “From Sunset to Star Rise,” the album’s longest track begins slow and pensive with a droning wash of dark ambience that creeps steadily through the speakers; a spectral brilliance emerges to evoke the dissipating sun granting audience to starlight, the sustained organ both inviting and disconcerting as frantic pianos seem to appear suddenly with a style that reminds this writer of the wild abandon of Mike Garson. An almost choral wave amid insectoid chitters of sound conclude the nearly 20-minute sojourn, as if to intimate that this was all part of nature’s soundtrack to a world on the edge of human experience. Voices do appear throughout, but are usually relegated to heavily manipulated spoken passages, such as the breathy and ghostly phrases of “Summer Storm Revisited” amid glassy tones that conjure images of a solitary figure walking along the beach, kept company only by distant birds, or the cackles of distorted noise on “Tender Fury and Their Fall” struggling to be heard in a miasmal dissonance, the almost rhythmic pulsations of sound intimating a melody without actually coalescing into one. “Too Hot the Eye of Heaven Shines” begins discordantly enough with swells of what could be horns and pipe organs wistfully give way to a melodic loop, the repetition forming a veritable aural lullaby, while the drones of “The Stone of Pride” encase the listener in a warm blanket to protect them from the cold and hollow bellows of the fathomless sea; the sustain persists and pervades before dissolving into the rather conspicuous sound of an electric piano whose meditative hums in concert with layered voices bring the album to a lovely conclusion.
While those familiar with Spybey’s extensive catalog may not find this album to be among his most adventurous, there is a soothing and satisfying quality to his collaboration with Snowbeasts, the two artistic spirits sharing in the wonder of the seaside from opposite ends. As well, despite the excessive length of each track, they so effectively engulf the listener in its oceanic splendor, the hints of voices and snippets of musicality fading in and out as one whistles of sings a jaunty tune when on a long sea voyage. One must anxiously and enthusiastically wonder to what audio destination the trio of Spybey, Galbraith, and Virosa will next embark.